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Old school a study in education

August 21, 1997

By VANDANA SINHA

Staff Writer

GREENCASTLE, Pa. - Only a few framed photographs and the gray-tinted stone exterior show Glen Cump what the one-room Old Brown's Mill Schoolhouse was like more than 150 years ago.

Cump, 83, a local historian in Greencastle, attended school at the schoolhouse, which was built in 1836.

He said that when the state of Pennsylvania in 1935 renovated the only standing remnant of an 1800s public school system, it also transferred the schoolhouse's benches, desks, stove and other furniture to a far-off museum.

The building now stands in the village of Kauffman Station, also known as Brown's Mill.

It has a newly painted door, walls and window shingles, restored wood-paneled roof, an array of wood benches, glass-enclosed book shelves and display cases, and an 8-inch thick fire extinguisher that could not have been around in the 19th century.

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The one-room schoolhouse-turned-museum is open to the public on weekends from 1 to 4 p.m., and Cump said people are taking full advantage.

"It must have been three years ago, I had 702 school kids visit the place," he said.

The Franklin County chapter of the Pennsylvania Association of Retired Schoolteachers has managed the old schoolhouse tours for at least 15 years, Cump said.

About 15 to 35 people show up each week, sometimes from California, Georgia, Ohio, Illinois, West Virginia, Virginia, Maryland and even Japan, to see an example of Pennsylvania's early educational system, said Bernice Reese, coordinator of the schoolhouse tours and a retired one-room schoolteacher from Scotland, Pa.

"It's really amazing where they all come from," said Reese.

She and Cump take turns guiding visitors through the century-old lives of the first- through eighth-graders who learned reading, writing, arithmetic, geography and English in that one room at the corner of present-day Angle and Browns Mill roads.

Like John F. Cump, a student in 1858, who had to jump atop the railroad cars, which were drawn by horses at the time, to travel from his house to the school each day, said Cump of his grandfather's brother.

Years later, when he attended the school, Cump said that unlike most of his generation, he didn't have to walk five miles to school each day.

"No, I didn't. 'Course I lived down the street, but my wife walked five miles from her home in Shady Grove," he said.

And some of the 43 known schoolteachers lived so far from work that they stayed in a different student's house each night, eating dinner with the families and helping children with their homework, Cump said.

"The teachers were very stern, very punctual. They applied the rod very readily," he said, remembering his first- and second-grade experiences there.

Once female schoolteachers began working in 1868, 32 years after the school opened, they earned a meager $11.21 a month - $6.51 less per month than what men received for the same work.

"You gals wouldn't put up with that now, would you?" Cump asked.

When the schoolhouse was closed down in 1922 amidst residents' opposition, students went to the Consolidated School, a red brick building about 100 yards away that separated them by grade level, he said.

But the Old Brown's Mill School stories are enshrined in books, inside glass cases, along the walls, atop tables and in the minds of tour guides that keep the building open for visitors today.

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